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Pitch Wars Team Interview with Mary Dunbar and her mentor, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Wednesday, 14 September 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

PW Interviews

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . .


Mary Dunbar – Mentee

Twitter | Website


Laurie Elizabeth Flynn – Mentor

Twitter | Website


Mary: Why did you choose Laurie?

Laurie was at the top of my list from the start. First of all, she wanted gritty, edgy contemporary, and she specifically noted that she loves stories with a hint of mystery and messy, unreliable narrators. That told me she would be a great mentor for STILL BREATHING. Also, her mentoring style seemed to fit with my writing process, and I definitely wanted a mentor I could bounce ideas off of. I knew from her book, FIRSTS, that she loves voicey characters and isn’t afraid to push expectations. We talked a bit on Twitter, and we commiserated about being total phone klutzes, and if someone drops their phone as much as I do mine, I know we’re a good match!

Laurie: Why did you choose Mary’s manuscript?

Right away, I gravitated toward the concept of Still Breathing. It deals with grief and friendship and finding yourself when you’re not sure who you are anymore, and figuring out if it’s possible to go back. At its core is a love story so beautiful and haunting that it gave me chills. I asked for voice, and I got voice. I asked for feels, and I got feels. This is the kind of book that will make you happy and sad and angry and hopeful. Jordan is the kind of main character you’ll remember long after turning the last page. After finishing Still Breathing, I was still (no pun intended!) thinking about him. And I may have held my breath more than once.

Mary: Summarize your book in three words.

Loss. New beginnings.

Laurie: Summarize Mary’s book in three words.

Heartbreaking, haunting, evocative.

Mary: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but in sixth grade, I got serious about it. A one-page story for spelling turned into a book I asked my teacher to read, and she encouraged me to keep working. I had no idea how to write a query letter or get an agent, so I just sat my stories on shelves after I finished them. In college, I majored in creative writing, but I wrote YA, and my classes were geared toward “serious literary works.” I gave up on YA and stuck to non-fiction, and that’s how I ended up working at a newspaper (twice!).

In 2013, my best friend from high school asked why I didn’t have a book out yet. We had been critique partners from seventh through twelfth grades, so she knew I loved writing. She said she still thought about my characters from those stories, and she encouraged me to write again. So here I am!

My manuscript is STILL BREATHING. My MC, Jordan, killed his best friend in a car accident, and he believes Taylor is haunting him. Jordan broke his neck in the wreck, and he’s adjusting to having a spinal cord injury, dealing with a ghostly hallucination who wants to make out with him, and trying to figure out what REALLY happened to cause the accident. It was one of the most difficult, yet most fun, projects I’ve ever worked on.

Laurie: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know. 

I have an obsession with lipstick. I consider it more of a love affair. Kat Von D is my favorite brand, and I cannot go to Sephora without buying a new shade.


Check out Laurie Elizabeth Flynn’s upcoming release . . .


Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, January 5, 2016

Watch the Firsts book trailer here!

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, Firsts is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

Add Firsts to your Goodreads bookshelf here!

Firsts is available for preorder from these retailers:

Amazon   I   Barnes and Noble   I   Indigo   I   iTunes   I   Kobo   I   Books-A-Million   I   IndieBound   I   Powell’s   I   Target


Thank you for supporting our Pitch Wars Teams! And don’t forget to stop by the Agent Showcase starting November 3rd to see how our teams do in the final round.

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